Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"I have calmed and quieted my soul."

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
         Like a weaned child with his mother;

         Like a weaned child is my soul within me. 
                                                   Psalm 131:2.

It has taken awhile.

Usually, in the fall, I am filled with a sense of calm and well-being. The lengthening days and increasing dark soothe me.

For a variety of seasons that simply did not happen this year.

Today is a gentle day. I am experiencing a sense of calm and content that has eluded me for a while. The sky is the clear cornflower blue that I love so dearly. The afternoon sunlight “pours in like butterscotch,”* and drenches everything in a golden glow. The light is almost visible.

The holidays are coming. I can listen to holiday music now without my family complaining (too much). I am not going anywhere this December, so I can look towards a hopefully not-too-stressful Christmas. The traditions of our family, which whatever the condition of my faith mean a great deal to me, are on the horizon: The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy will be home in a couple of weeks, there will be the annual tree hunt and decorating, and the latke dinner cooked by the Resident Shrink on the second night of Hanukkah. And this year, I may return to Midnight Mass, the comforting ritual of a Catholic upbringing. There are always the carols we sing on Christmas Eve evening, a holdover from The Rocket Scientist's family.

There will be the lights, and the annual trip around various neighborhoods to see the displays. The highlight for the past few years has been the ten-foot tall reindeer in Willow Glen. The lights bring me great joy.

This is not to say there is not a lot in my life right now that is cause for concern or sadness. I am still without a job, with all the economic and personal uncertainty that brings, and a close friend just lost hers. Various members of my family are going through times of great stress, even pain. I am there for them as much as I can be. I am still recovering from being sick, given to bouts of great fatigue. (I recognize that this may contribute to my sense of calm: I really do not have the energy to be stressed about anything.)

But my life is what it is.

And at just this very moment, that's okay.

*From “Chelsea Morning,” by Joni Mitchell.

Still not king...

...and still pretty wiped out.  I had two different meetings today, and now want to nap.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Important reminder

 It is vitally important not to try to watch the Colbert Report while drinking milk.  Oww.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good food.

So, I'm still weak, fatigued and coughing.  I did go to Starbucks for a couple of hours today with the kids.  We had a far ranging, interesting discussion, as is our wont. 

Then I came home and slept, and talked to friends. I did not do either of the things I had half-planned to do: beading, or writing a post about the movie Gone With The Wind. (Short version: dangerous movie because of stereotypes, great performances from several of the principals, which in some ways makes it even more dangerous.) I did watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- because even at whatever age he was when he made the film, Sean Connery is easily as sexy as Harrison Ford. 

But the best part of the day, so far? The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy made dinner.  Dinner was steamed kale, with garlic, almonds and lemon, and sandwiches.  The sandwiches were perfectly cooked sliced steak, sharp cheddar cheese, grilled onions and cilantro, or pesto, fresh mozzarella, and tomato, both on sourdough.  They rocked.

He's a good kid, and a good cook.

Friday, November 25, 2011

QOTD, for several members of my family

... and you know who you are.

"[Geocachers] use multimillion dollar military equipment to find Tupperware hidden in the woods."*
Ken Jennings, during a talk abut his new book Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks.

*Just to be clear, he thinks geocaching is a great thing.

New Christmas music

Each year, I add a few songs to my collection of Christmas music.  Last year it was Josh Groban.  This year it is...

Straight No Chaser, "The Twelve Days of Christmas (Live)," and...

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," by... Twisted Sister.

Simplicity: is that so hard?

"Silent Night" is a simple song.  That's what makes it so very moving: simple does not mean empty or shallow.  It is like "What Child Is This?," beautfiul and simple but not plain.

That simplicity may be why so many singers choose to add all sort of flourishes when they record it.  I am going through iTunes looking with little success for a version that is simply sung, in the spirit of a song written for voice and guitar (because the organ was broken), not for trumpets and strings.

It is a song of quiet wonder, not glory and majesty. 

That should be saved for the "Hallelujah Chorus, " or at least "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Day.... whatever.

I am really trying to post every day, whether or not I think I have anything to say.  Writing something is the beginning to writing something worth reading, and this is the forum I am most comfortable writing in.  What this means for you is that there may be a lot of dross for the few flakes of gold.  Sorry about that.

I must have been much sicker than I thought when I went into the doctor.  I knew I felt bad, but generally bronchitis does not mean three days in bed for me, especially not on Zithromax.  Usually with Zithromax, I feel a lot better the next day, or certainly the day after.  I do feel a little better, just not by very much.

I mentioned this to the Rocket Scientist this morning, and he did not look surprised.  He had said he had been prepared to take me into the doctor on Wednesday whether or not I agreed, because he said I looked really ill and he did not want to spend Thanksgiving in the E.R.  When I told this to the doctor, he looked at me very seriously and said "You need to tell him thank you."

I am can tell I am getting a little better -- I feel really weak and unable to do anything, but I am bored and developing a bit of cabin fever.  I may go out to the drive-in Starbucks just to get out of the house for half an hour, and then come back to bed.

[Edited to add: did that, now I feel like I want to collapse.  Bad idea.]

I don't even have the energy to write a post on the "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" crap that always rears its ugly head this time of year, like some really obnoxious gopher. (I am firmly in the Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings camp.  The best explanation I can give is this one, although that was written at a time I felt a lot more filled with faith than I do now.  Even though I currently lack personal and emotional resonance with what I wrote, I find it still valid intellectually.)

I hate being this sick.  The Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy is home for Thanksgiving, and I want to go do things with him and his brothers, rather than what I am doing right now, which is lying in bed, writing on my computer and listening to Christmas music through the cable service. Well, we are definitely going to our traditional Saturday morning Starbucks coffee tomorrow, even if I have to go home and sleep the rest of the day.

After he goes, we have two weeks to get the house ready for his return for the holidays.  He's bringing a friend with him, so it won't be quite the same, but it still is so lovely to have him around.

Have I ever mentioned how utterly cool I find my kids?

And it's not just mine.  I know mine are special, but I know few teenagers that are not at some level interesting.  I have never figured out how people can be so dismissive of them.

This may be why we have never faced full-on teenage rebellion.  Yes, there are discipline issues, and no, they do not get to do whatever they want (except for the NSLDB, because he just turned *gasp* twenty-one), but we have never been anything other than perfectly clear with them that they are their own people.  To the extent that rebellion is a matter of differentiation from parents, ours don't have to do that: they are already different, from us and certainly from each other.

I talk to all of them.  I enjoy their company.  I know a lot of parents who do not feel the same way.

I am so so lucky.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A list of fifty things I give thanks for, in varying levels of importance:

  1. For my household. The boys, The Rocket Scientist and the Resident Shrink.
  2. For my mom and my siblings.
  3. For my friends.
  4. For continued employment for my husband.
  5. For the roof above our heads.
  6. For the food on our table.
  7. For the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet.
  8. For health insurance.
  9. For the meds I take and the medical equipment I use to keep my health conditions at bay.
  10. For Zithromax.
  11. For my doctors, of every stripe.
  12. For the U.S. Constitution, especially the Bill Of Rights.
  13. For writing.
  14. For Georgia, and before her, Jan, who opened the world for me.
  15. For this blog.
  16. For Facebook and LiveJournal, which make it possible for me to keep track of friends all over.
  17. For Occupy Wall Street, for speaking the truths that need to be speaking.
  18. For the Loft, and Tuesday night trivia, and the friends I have found there, who make me feel valued.
  19. For Starbucks. 
  20. For Venti Non-fat No-whip Salted Carmel Mochas.
  21. For Coke with grenadine. 
  22. For Thanksgiving dinner.
  23. For tangelos.
  24. For kind strangers.
  25. For good public schools.
  26. For the classes I'm taking.
  27. For Jane Austen.
  28. For Terry Pratchett.
  29. For Jon Stewart.
  30. For Stephen Colbert.
  31. For Alton Brown.
  32. For Stephen Sondheim.
  33. For road trips.
  34. For the colors of the leaves in the trees in Oregon and the vineyards in Paso Robles.
  35. For fall.
  36. For California weather.
  37. For the ocean.
  38. For the color blue.
  39. For good music.
  40. For good books.
  41. For good food.
  42. For good wine.
  43. For good coffee.
  44. For good sex.
  45. For love in all its varied forms and with all its myriad complications.
  46. For art.
  47. For light.
  48. For beauty.
  49. For laughter.
  50. For life.

Musings on cosmology

I am currently under orders from my doctor to rest, having been diagnosed with severe asthma, acute bronchitis and a sinus infection, all courtesy of the crud I had a couple if weeks ago.  (I should be better in a few days.  Thank God for Zithromax!)

In between doing odds and ends for Thanksgiving dinner (the heavy lifting -- both figuratively and literally -- is being done by the Rocket Scientist and the Resident Shrink), I am amusing myself by watching the PBS specials with Brian Greene*, "The Fabric of the Cosmos." I like programs such as these because they make me think about the world beyond my experience or understanding.

In my exhausted, oxygen deprived state, just as I'm about to nap, I keep thinking about the theory of the multiverse.

We know the universe is bounded.  We can determine where the boundaries are due to the background radiation that is the remnant of the Big Bang.  But if there are indeed a multitude of universes, what about the space** in which the multiverse exists? Is that bounded?  Logic says it probably must be, that the multiverse exists in a larger... super-universe? ... but is that bounded? Where does it end?  Is it turtles all the way down?

The other issue has to do with the nature of the debate.  I still cannot grasp from watching the show the extent to which the multiverse can be shown empirically beyond the realm of mathematics.  That is, the math says that it must exist, but it's not testable.

So at what point does the belief in the existence of the multiverse approach religion?  Although, as The Rocket Scientist said, there is a lot more mathematical support for the existence of the multiverse than the existence of God.

And that's not even discussing M-theory, which as far as I can tell from watching the program, gives the necessary support for these ideas.

I feel stupid.  Maybe I should watch this when I am better, and have more brains than a sheep.

*No relation, unfortunately.
**I'm not sure if that is the right word, but I'm not sure what word to use, so indulge me.

It was inevitable

First Thanksgiving disaster: I put too much pineapple in the cranberry sauce.  It's too sweet: almost a cranberry-pineapple preserves rather than a sauce.  Pooh.

I wonder if adding Tabasco (heat) would help?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It's Thanksgiving week.  Followed by the holidays in December.  I have too much to do.

I am declaring myself on a political moratorium at least through the end of the week, both here and Facebook.  It won't make that much difference here -- for the past little bit I have only occasionally been posting political items.  Over in Facebook, I do a lot more.

This does not include posts about law.  While it is true that the two are almost inextricably entwined, I do not view a post on the implications of a case to be the same thing as a rant about the Tea Party.

I don't rent cranes or other construction equipment, but if I did, I know for sure who I would not rent them from.  As can be seem in this photo,  U.S. Cranes, LLC is refusing to hire people as long as Obama is in office.

Note: when contacted, the owner did not say he was unable to hire people, but that even if he could, he would not as long as a Muslim in the White House.
The answer to this? Boycott U.S. Cranes and all other businesses that espouse this position. Any company that places political ends above the well-being of their fellow citizens deserves to go out of business. That is as true of the guy shown here as it is of Bank of America.

Yep, he's home.

Me: Did you know that Torani makes bacon syrup? That seems just so... wrong.

The Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy: You live in the twenty-first century, Mom, If they don't have bacon-flavored air fresheners by now, we're not in the future.

An email I actually did send

[To Michael Morrill, in response to a email asking people to sign a petition calling on Congress to give up their "federally subsidized health care."]

Dear Sir:

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS DO NOT GET FREE HEALTH CARE.  They are entitled to *purchase* the same healthcare that all federal employees get.  Check ( if you don't believe me.

I am a progressive.  But you do not get a pass from me for spreading misinformation, unwittingly or not, simply because I believe in the same general political principles you do.

Every time you are shoddy with the facts, you damage our cause, because you damage our credibility. There are so many things to scream at Congress for (from being captive to special interests to completely callous and uncaring for the plight of many average Americans), don't waste time -- mine, yours, and ours as a movement and a nation -- on statements that are easily disprovable. The truth is our best weapon against the status quo.

A fellow progressive,

Pat Greene

PS:  In case you are interested, I wrote a blog post on just this issue:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another important decision...

What wine?

We do not have my (and Ted Allen's) wine of choice to go with turkey, which would definitely be a Gewurtztraminer. We do have some other wines, though.  In fact, we have a fair amount of wine, which is part of the problem.

Most of the wines are medium-bodied to hearty reds, in accordance with the preferences of the members of the house who drink wine.  We have some white which is relatively but not too dry -- but I am not a fan of most white wine and often use it for cooking instead of drinking.  When faced with a situation where white wine would be appropriate, I prefer a dry cider or perry.

I have yet to find a Chardonnay which I  like.

I suppose we could go out and buy a Gewurtz, but quite frankly I am hesitant to buy more wine when we have so much ready to be drunk up.

Edited to add: we have 32 bottles of various types and vintages (including a couple of nice Stag's Leaps and a Sterling Merlot).  Among them is a relatively recent German Riesling which should do very nicely.

Decisions, Decisions...

[Cross-posted to FB]

Thinking aloud, or maybe an informal poll: I am making or buying a pumpkin pie for those person(s) in my house who like pumpkin. I am making a key lime pie for those who like key lime. I am torn between making a chocolate sour cream pie or warm brownies with vanilla ice cream for those who don't like either of those.

On the one hand, fridge space will be a a premium, and the pies need to be refrigerated.  On the other hand, pies are more traditional. Not to mention that if I make brownies on Tuesday, I will have to fight everyone in my family to keep them from being eaten up before Thursday. (Wednesday is for making cornbread for the stuffing as well as chopping and sauteing the veggies, cooking sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the other pies (including roasting the pumpkin if I choose to go that route rather than buying one), as well as various and other sundry preparations.  Thanksgiving Day, we make the turkey and stuffing, the mashed potatoes and ambrosia, as well as finishing the sweet potato casserole.)

Yes, I know, we make an obscene amount of food, and all those desserts are good for no one in our family. But it's traditional for us, and we eat off this for a week in some form (turkey and dressing sandwiches with cranberry sauce, yum). If anything needs to go, it's the ambrosia, which is a pain to make and which can oxidize pretty quickly, and is the dish we are most likely to throw out some of. Definitely a first-world problem.

We are blessed with abundance.

Edited to add: Any suggestions for changes in either menu or staging to make all of this easier would be most appreciated.

A jug of wine and thou, alone in the ... country

The Rocket Scientist and I spent the weekend in Cambria, California, a quaint (as in the cutesy and somewhat overpriced sense) seaside town about 10 miles south of San Simeon.  And, for all of you who may be in that part of the country, some suggestions....

If you are driving from the Bay Area, unless the weather is God-awful, drive down Route 1 to get there.  It will take a couple more hours, but Big Sur has stunning scenery whereas Salinas does not.  We were lucky.  Although it looked overcast and gloomy when we had to make the decision to leave U.S. 101 to go over to Monterey, we gambled and it panned out: the weather cleared and the drive was movie-scenery gorgeous.  That's not an exaggeration: if you see a car ad with people driving over a bridge with arched supports spanning a chasm next to a seaside cliff, you are almost certainly looking at Bixby Creek Bridge.

We stayed at the El Colibri Hotel in Cambria.  It was lovely: the room was beautiful, with a spa tub and a fireplace.  In fact, the gas fireplace was the heater for the room. The continental breakfasts were nothing much -- you would be better off going into town to Linn's Restaurant.

Cambria is a good jumping-off point for three very different activities.  Twenty miles north, Piedros Blancos lighthouse is the seasonal home for a large colony of elephant seals.  Elephant seals are impressive creatures, but since we had limited time (and I've seen elephant seals before, at Ana Nuevo north of Santa Cruz), we skipped them.  However, we did walk along the Moonstone Beach in Cambria:  any place there is beach access is well worth taking a stroll. 

On Saturday, we drove through the Paso Robles wine country. Think Napa, only less crowded. (Of course, I've never been to Napa in November.)  We did not visit all that many actual wineries, but driving around the spectacular rolling hills covered in the vineyards' brilliant fall foliage to reach some of the more remote ones was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

I have hit a problem here: how many times can one say "wonderful," "beautiful," "scenic," "spectacular" or "amazing" and not be completely boring?

Reading the blurbs in the visitor's guide, the Paso Robles wineries seem to produce mostly reds.  That was certainly true with the four we visited.  One of those was Kukkula, where we purchased another bottle of the Lagniappe (a zin, syrah, grenache and mourvedre blend). We also went to Eos, which had less impressive offerings, and came away with a dessert wine. On Sunday, we visited Lone Madrone (simply to try their Bristol's apple cider, which is a must if you like complex, fruity yet dry ciders) and Barrel 27.  We visited the last pretty much based on their winery guide blurb being the most humorous, least pretentious description of any winery anywhere.  The lack of pretention was appropriate: Barrel 27 is located in a small office/commercial park.  It was clearly the winery, though, and not merely the tasting room:  you could see the wine barrels in the back.  Lack of pretention does not mean lack of quality: Barrel 27 also had what were probably my favorite wines: the Rock and a Hard Place Grenache, and especially the Bull by the Horns red blend.

The highlight of the trip came Saturday evening with the evening tour of San Simeon. I have been several times to Hearst Castle during the day: it's pretty much a standard tourist experience; Disneyland without the rides. At night, however, and near the holidays....

For the night tour, people  in period costume wander through the estate, hanging out in the rooms chatting or playing billiards, interacting with the tour guides that come through. (The Rocket Scientist had the best description: "It's a Depression-era Ren Faire.") The buildings seem much more like what they were -- a house, albeit an insanely extravagant one -- and less like a oddly put together art museum.  The house was brilliantly lit up, and the Christmas decorations had been put in place in many of the rooms. (Our docent, dressed in 1930s suit, with period overcoat and hat, mentioned that the Christmas decorating had to start early since it took so long to finish all of it.)

Because of my mobility issues (over three hundred stairsteps were simply not going to be possible for me), we took the Handicapped Accessible tour.  On the one hand, we did not see the upper floors of the main house, which included Hearst's suite, which is by all accounts fascinating. We also did not view the staggering outdoor pool. On the other hand, our tour had a grand total of five people: the Rocket Scientist, myself, and a young couple, one of who was on crutches (and then on a wheelchair) and our guide.  We were driven through the grounds from house to house on a small golf cart.  Best of all, we had a knowledgeable (in addition to being a professor of communications at Cal Poly, he had also written a master's thesis on the relationship between Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan) and chatty guide, and got more information (and certainly were better able to ask questions) than those on the thirty-person tours.

If you have never seen Hearst Castle, by all means go during the day.  You have more of a chance to see around the grounds, and as I said, viewing the outdoor pool should be pretty much mandatory.  If you have seen it already, take the night tour.

Sunday, we drove back through the Paso Robles wine country to 101.  The weather had turned bad, and while Big Sur is a delight in nice weather, the thought of driving it with sheets of rain hitting the windshield makes me faintly nauseous.

All in all, Cambria, the Central Coast, and Paso Robles get high marks all around.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The best laid plans of mice and men...

...collapse when one has had simply too much wine.

I was going to spend a little time tonight (while the Rocket Scientist was involved with other business) running down a list of current cases before SCOTUS and why they interest me.  There are more than usual this term, and more that interest me that lie outside my normal narrow capital punishment/juvenile justice/takings or environmental cases from the 9th or 11th Circuits box than is usually the case.

However, I have killed at least half a bottle of Kukkula Lagniappe Red Wine (Paso Robles, 2008), which is rather strong for wine, being 16% alcohol. It's quite tasty.

When you get vertigo just from sneezing, trying to use your critical thinking skills and coming up with anything even remotely coherent is probably a lost cause.

Edited to add:  Let me tell you, Kukkula Lagniappe (Paso Robles, 2008) is good wine, and not just because it is redolent of chocolate and cassis.  I killed over half a bottle by myself over the course of maybe two hours last night.  I woke up this morning after 4.5 hours of sleep, and I have no hangover.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Calling Christopher Moore

I had a wonderful drive down the California coast through Big Sur today with the Rocket Scientist.  The weather was cool, crisp and brilliantly sunny, with the late afternoon sky turning that gorgeous golden color that looks like it should be in a movie.  The sky held just enough clouds to create a beautiful sunset.

We are now in Cambria, California, which according to what I have heard was the model for the town of Pine Cove in several books by Christopher Moore, including Practical Demonkeeping

We're going to be keeping our eyes open for anything suspicious.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pleasant events, or maybe not.

I have mentioned once or twice that I am taking a class on Thursdays which revolves around mentally healthy habits for adults.  I missed last week, due to the cold (or whatever it was) from hell, and was reviewing last week's work before class today.

Last week covered the concept of a "pleasant events schedule."  That is, rather than letting good things arise organically from your experiences and surroundings, you actively plan in a certain amount of pleasant events every week, with a minimum of one a day.  Pleasant events ranged from "traveling abroad" to "recognizing you have done a good job" or "thinking how much more fortunate you are than others you may know."

Looking down the list, I noticed that "throttling people in your life who oh-so-richly deserve it"* is not on there.  Pity.

A lot of other activities on the list have potentially significant downsides: flirting, eating, gambling, sex.  Why not a little premeditated homicide?

No, I have to remember that throttling people is wrong. Oh, wait, no, that's judgmental.  I am supposed to avoid being judgmental.  I should instead say "throttling people is inconsistent with my core value which requires me to respect the sanctity of human life."

But sometimes it is also very tempting.

*No, there is no one right this minute who is annoying me that much, but I just recognize the general principle.

Because you never know when you'll meet a knight with a white horse.

I was in the downtown Starbucks, which I like because it has long tables which allow me to work without feeling that I am hogging a table all to myself which other people would want.  (Said tables all have power outlets underneath them, which make them even more attractive.)  A young man came in who had been at the bank down the street.  He was carrying two plush white ponies.

He saw me looking at them.  "They're cute," I said.  "Want one?" he responded.

After hemming and hawing, I succumbed to his suggestion that a grown woman needed a small stuffed white horse named, according to the tag on its ear, "Snowflake."  "You can call it Starbucks," he said.

So I now own a white plush pony named "Starbucks." Yet another sign that I am not growing up, but instead back towards childhood.  As if I care about that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hitting too close to home.

I like you people too much to link to  I recognize that you have lives, and that some of you are like me and possess too little self-discipline to refrain from clicking on articles such as "6 Badass Kids Who Ran Away From Home With a Vengeance," thereby committing yourself to spending the next hour or more clicking from link to link.

However... their most recent Photoplasty contest, "If Error Messages Had a Sense of Humor," was irresistible, mainly because #32 hits my situation not on the nail's head but squarely in the solar plexus.

Um, yeah.

Oh, the horror!

I have to leave this Starbucks. First because the wireless is down (I am writing this in Open Office, intending to post it later) but more so because...

They are playing exclusively Christmas music on November 16.

No Venti Decaf Skinny Peppermint Mocha is worth that.

Time like a river, and filled with rapids.

Saturday, it will be the fifteenth anniversary of my father's death.

Sunday will mark my eldest son's twenty-first birthday.

Both of those are painful, though for different reasons.

The first hurts because there is so much I left unsaid (and unasked) to my dad. I thought there was so much time. He died at seventy-two, from complications to a knee operation which should have prolonged his life by making it easier for him to walk and exercise. His death was sudden and unexpected: one day he was fine, the next day he was dead. The infection which took him was fast and furious, and did not respond to the best efforts of his doctor.

I can't bring him back. All I can do is make sure not to make the same mistake with my mother.

With the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy, his passage into formal adulthood fills me with regret. What have I done wrong? What should have I done differently? He is a wonderful young man, and it feels like it was the result of forces beyond me. Last summer we had a discussion about ways in which the occasional dysfunction which this family is prone to had hurt him. By the end of the talk both of us were in tears. All parents fear that they are screwing up their kids; I have been told exactly what I did to mine, without blame or rancor, merely pain.

I can't protect him anymore. All I can do is tell him I love him, and tell him all the things I wish my dad had told me before he died.

Neither of those things seem like quite enough.


Normally, this blog gets, oh, around 30 page views a day, according to my Blogger stats. Lately, that has increased to between 45-60 a day, as I have been writing more. (Of course, at least 50% – some days many more – of those hits are people Googling the words “children ardent for some desperate glory.” Many more are people Googling some variation on the words “little-known heroes.”) When I wrote the Steve Jobs, “Silence = Death,” and “Class Warfare” posts, I had several days where my page count approached 100.

Today my hit count exceeds 450.

I am astute enough to realize that it is unlikely that anything I have written would have resulted in this surge in activity. Not to mention that the three URLs which have accounted for the most traffic all redirect to the same nondescript content-empty site.

I think my blog URL is being used either to spoof something else, or as a way to generate false hits for someone's web ads. Both of these bother me no end. The first because I don't know what it would be used for, and if someone is going to all the trouble to hijack the blog, it must be something unsavory. The second because there is a reason I keep my content ad-free, and if anyone is going to be making money off what I write, it darn well better be me.

I an not net savvy enough to diagnose what is going on here. I am afraid it is something that will get the blog frozen.* If it continues past today, I am going to contact Blogger to see what they say.

In the meantime, I am taking steps to keep disaster at bay. I am backing up all my content on a mirror site that I have on Wordpress. I have been thinking of moving over there for some time, and once I have the site looking the way I want it, I may well do so. (Of course, this site has been redesigned six or seven times in its history, so maybe I will simply call it a work-in-progress, and open it up. As it is, I still am teaching myself the basics of the Wordpress system, and remembering the small amount of HTML I need to tweak the design.) I am also setting up an RSS feed for the other site so that I can port it over to LiveJournal, since I know readers who view it through the LJ RSS feed.

So keep tuned. I'll let you know what happens.

*If it turns out that it is something that gets all my Google accounts frozen, I am royally screwed. I have four Gmail accounts: the one associated with this blog, the one in which I get important institutional news (emails to my doctors, the school, etc.) and various useful spam (e.g., Groupon and Amazon), a “professional” account (i.e., one with my actual name in the address) which I use for job-hunting and work-related correspondence, and a mostly dormant one associated with my jewelry and design work. (I have a non-Gmail account for corresponding with friends and family.) I also have quite a number of Google docs, mainly because it has proven to be a useful format for receiving and editing things from other people. I don't use Google+ or Chrome, on the grounds that, with the above mentioned Gmail and docs and my search history, this multi-national already has far too much of my information already. (Paranoid I may be, but I do not put my trust in large companies. I am far too small a fish to ever come to anyone's notice, but just the idea of people having access to that much information about me makes me a bit uncomfortable.) I stick to Facebook, and am careful about what information I release to my friends. (Although there, given FB's history of a total lack of respect for people's privacy, I may be putting too much out there as well.) Thank God for Livejournal.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's a hat trick!

In 2008, my work was featured as a full-color back ad for Beadwork magazine.

In 2010, the same work was featured in a full-color back cover ad for Bead Unique magazine.

I have just been notified that the same picture was a featured interior full-page full color ad in the 2011 November issue of Rock & Gem magazine.  Not back cover, but still not shabby.

Discovery of the week.

I was looking through the Politifact website, and found a link to Poynter News University.

Poynter is dedicated to increasing journalistic excellence.  It was created by the people responsible for running the St. Petersburg Times, the best newspaper in the country.  When Nelson Poynter died, he founded the Modern Media Institute, and this organization controls the newspaper to this day.  The result is one of the only truly independent media outlets in the country.

The Poynter mission statement runs as follows:
The Poynter Institute is a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It promotes excellence and integrity in the practice of craft and in the practical leadership of successful businesses. It stands for a journalism that informs citizens and enlightens public discourse. It carries forward Nelson Poynter’s belief in the value of independent journalism in the public interest.
I can't take courses at their campus -- although, if I went, I would have a place to stay, as my mom still lives in St. Pete -- but that is not all they offer.

They have an extensive library of low-cost (or in some cases free) self-directed courses and webinars.  These are mainly aimed at professional journalists, but they also have courses directed at new media journalists such as bloggers.  If nothing else, they have classes on writing and learning to revise your own work, which I know will be invaluable.

I took a look at one free class called "50 Tools for Writers."  According to the description, it should take 1-2 hours.Yeah, right.  It takes that amount of time if you simply read the materials, but if you take the course seriously and do the exercises at the end of each chapter, it should take closer to twenty to twenty five.

With most classes in anything, the real learning comes in applying what you know.  I am hoping taking some of these classes will allow me to improve my writing.

I am not a journalist, nor am I likely to become one. I would love to make writing a career, though, and maybe this might be a first step to doing that. 

Maybe I'll overcome my lack of self-confidence and actually finish my book.  That would be nice.  In the meantime, maybe you guys will reap the benefits of any newly found skills.
Yes, I know I did not post anything yesterday. I wrote a post, but lack of Internet in my doctor's office kept me from posting.  The Rocket Scientist suggested I post it today and back date it, but that seems like cheating.

Fighting the monster.

In a prior post, I spoke of the social anxiety and imposter syndrome to which I seem to be increasingly prone. Over the past five years, I have gone from introverted to at times damn near reclusive. I'm working on this – it is one of the reasons I keep going to Tuesday night trivia.

As most people know, the way to deal with things you irrationally fear is to keep doing them, also known as the “getting back on the horse that threw you” principle. And, unlike the thrown rider, there is really no reason for me to be afraid of other people.

So, last week, I approached the horse.

A professor from SLS was giving a talk in San Francisco titled “Prosecutors Run Amok?.” I have developed a casual interest in criminal justice, and it seemed like an potentially interesting talk. So I talked myself into driving into San Francisco for what was at most an hour-and-a-half to two hour talk and reception, even though I knew no one else who was going to be there. I had the faint stirrings of what would later become the worst cold I have had in several years, but I refused to let myself back out.

Dress was “business casual.” What the heck is that, these days? I settled on a dress and (gulp) pantyhose. I actually purchased hose: these days the only time I wear them are for rare job interviews. I also bought another pair of flats.

And I got my hair cut. My stylist spoke English with a heavy Russian accent, and I am not sure at all that our understandings of what “long layers” meant coincided, or that she quite comprehended what I wanted. Afterwards I was rather unhappy.

I then got ready – having to ditch the hose after poking a hole in them (I hate designed obsolescence) – and set out. At that point, my carefully laid plans fell apart.

The drive from Mountain View to San Francisco took two hours. Even for rush hour on a Monday, that's just ridiculous. I managed to keep myself calm by having a conversation with an imaginary companion. She was a woman who, like me, had given up the law for other reponsibilities and who was fighting her own sense of inferiority.

“Look,” I told her. “Just because you opted to do other things doesn't mean you have thrown away your brain. They do not repossess your law degree simply because you've chosen to stay at home with kids.” It was a little while before I understood that I was really talking to and about myself.

I finally arrived in the city, and then had to find my way using Google Maps. It was fine while I was in the car, but on foot I had to resort to using (gasp) actual maps. Since I cannot navigate my way out of a paper bag using visual maps,* it took me fifteen minutes to get from the parking garage under 3 Embarcadero Center to the building at the corner of Battery.

By that time, I was forty-five minutes late. I still made myself go in, as flustered and nervous as I was.

The talk – of which I caught about half – was interesting. The audience appeared to consist of a few criminal lawyers, both prosecutors and defense lawyers, with the many of the others being civil litigators. The speaker discussed the Duke lacrosse rape case, and I came away knowing a lot more about the case than I did before, and with a great many thoughts about how messy rape prosecutions are, and how to reconcile a deep belief in the importance of the criminal justice system with an understanding of the way that system fails rape victims, and how knowledge of that second can cloud judgment with regards to the first. (That is a post I am still fleshing out in my mind, which I hope will be up shortly.)

I stayed until the end of the talk, did not speak to anyone other than the most simple pleasantries. Still, I went.

I rewarded myself by taking the long way home, through the city to the Great Highway, down the Devil's Slide on south to Highway 92. It gave me a lot of time to think.

I am going to try and do more horse-riding.  I can't see any reason I should deprive myself of chances to learn and grow, or deprive others of my, ahem, occasionally scintillating presence. Tuesday night trivia is a given, of course, and there is another SLS talk in early December which looks interesting. (Unlike the previous one, it is at the Law School, a mere half-hour from my house. Phew.)

Look out world, I'm heading out.

*This is not really an exaggeration.  I went to a talk in the spring at Stanford using a map, and ended up having to  move my car once because I ended up in a really inconvenient parking garage, and asking two different people for directions. And it still took me fifteen minutes after I left my car the second time to find a building that was a block and a half away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sad times in Happy Valley

I was a Joe Paterno fan.  I thought a great deal of how much good he had done at Penn State, and not only by virtue of winning a lot of football games.

I can't be anymore.  Not in the wake of the child-molestation scandal erupting in State College.

Paterno had been told by a graduate assistant that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had raped a child.  Paterno reported the incident to his superiors, as he was required to do by law. Which was, by law, all he was required to do.

He did not call the cops. He did not follow up on the investigation. However he may have filled his legal obligations, he failed in his ethical ones.

A friend on Facebook mentioned that he was reminded how people tend to talk about Bill Clinton and the Lewinksy scandal, ignoring all the other things Clinton accomplished while in office.  I see his point, to some extent.  But for me, the analogy is not to Bill Clinton, but to another president who accomplished a great deal but whose name is forever linked to unsavory incidents.

Joe Paterno is college football's Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon accomplished a great deal during his presidency.  He opened trade with China, He signed Title IX, the Clean Air Act  and the Endangered Species Act.  He drove the creation of the EPA and OSHA.

But when people talk about Nixon -- a president that, absent other considerations, would be listed among the good  ones -- the starting point is always Watergate.  Or his enemies list.  Or the dirty tricks his re-election committee engaged in.

Similarly, it will be difficult to think of Joe Paterno without first thinking of him as a guy who turned a blind eye to a horrific situation, who did what the law of the state required, but no more.

There are differences, of course.  Paterno's sins were those of omission, and their scope was far less grand than Nixon's.  Not to mention, of course, that Paterno did not break the law. 

At some point the good men do get swallowed up in their mistakes.  And, sadly, helping a great many young men to find success on the gridiron will disappear beneath the fact that Paterno's inaction may have caused untold harm to children too young to protect themselves.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I for one welcome our new feline overlords...

I was sitting on my bed looking intently at Orbitz to find hotels for an upcoming trip.  I had the cursor next to the Firefox window.

Penwiper walked up, pressed her paw on the trackpad, and once the window had receded (bringing up my mail window), walked off.  She did not walk on the computer, merely hit the trackpad to replace the window I was working with. I think she's annoyed that I was not paying attention to her.

Next thing you know, she'll have her own Facebook account.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 4

So, I was feeling slightly better.  So, I took DayQuil. I was well enough that had I been working I would have still hauled myself in to the office.

Or so I thought.

I went out to get coffee, came back, and... went back to bed.  I think if my livelihood were on the line I could somehow make myself stay up. When the kids were young, I would function as a mom no matter how weak and sick I was (up to and including having pneumonia).

But neither of those is the case anymore. Better to give my body the chance to recover.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday!

November 10 is the birthday of the Marine Corps.  For all you Marines out there, I want to deeply and sincerely thank you for your service.

Insanity, Christmas edition.

More on the Christmas tree tax:  it was in the works before Obama took office, and the idea came from the industry.  

According to Politifact, the Administration is reconsidering.  Oh, for God's sake.

There are people struggling to find food in this country.  There are people out of work.  There are people without health insurance or access to reasonable health care.

And we are spending time arguing over a freaking fifteen-cent tax?

And there are people crying over the equivalent of one-quarter of a candy bar?

What the hell is wrong with them?

What I want is someone in the Administration to stand up to the bullies here.  I want someone to say "Oh, for God's sake.  It's fifteen cents. If you can afford a tree, you can afford this fee."

I am simply gob-smacked that there are people so out of touch with reality that this bothers them.

Day 3

So much to write about in the world, and I lie here, sick as a dog for yet another day.  More NyQuil, please.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This a test of the Blogger mobile posting application.  This is only a test.  In the event of a real post, you will get something more interesting to read.

Some perspective, people.

The news sites I've looked at today were aghast at the Administration's tax on Christmas trees.  At least one Republican has referred to the tax as a "Grinch" move.

I've looked at three separate articles.  All of them give the amount of the tax as .... fifteen cents.

I would like to posit that if you can afford a Christmas tree, which in my neck of the woods can cost fifty bucks for a six-footer, fifteen cents is not a problem.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I went to an interesting talk last night, followed by a long drive where I did a lot of thinking.  When I got home, I only had time to do the hair post before going to bed.  I had been planning two posts for today -- one of which discussed the process of getting ready to go out vis a vis social anxiety and imposter syndrome, and the other discussing philosophical issues surrounding difficult rape prosecutions, in particular the Duke lacrosse case. Perhaps a third post about, a program which will allow me to get writing instruction at very low cost.

But my throat started to hurt.  Today, I feel like the proverbial death warmed over (although, how would anyone know what that felt like?).  My brain is full of cotton wool, and while I remember roughly what I was going to say, the thought of trying to come up with coherent words makes me want to hole up somewhere and not come out for two weeks.

You know you are sick when the NyQuil starts to taste good.  Time to go to bed again, I think.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The hair: not a fan.

I got my hair cut today.  It really needed cutting, the ends had gotten very damaged.  The Resident Shrink told me it's cute, but I think it looks like a cross between Billie Jean King circa 1976 and Cindy Lou Who.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


I have a friend who uses exclamation points when they text.  It works -- it fits their personality. Now, I have absolutely nothing against exclamation points (when used appropriately and in moderation -- which my friend does) but I'm not an exclamation point kind of person (I rarely use them unless quoting or for ironic value).  Except... when returning their texts.  Similarly, I am never even tempted* to use 2 for to or 4 for for or U for you... unless I am returning texts from my college-aged son, who, sadly enough, uses those abominations sometimes.

I was wondering aloud about this phenomenon this morning (after returning a exclamation point containing text to my friend) when the Rocket Scientist noted that it is akin to adopting people's accents when talking to them, which I also do.

I have lived in Northern California for well over two decades now.  I now have, realistically speaking, no accent.**  I go home to Florida, to visit my  mother who still retains something of a Southern accent, and the accent I used to have deepens a shade. I go to Mississippi to visit my brother and sister, or to Georgia to visit my in-laws, and my accent deepens a lot. My speech, which tends to be somewhat slow anyway (law school training to get rid of "ums" and "ers") becomes a drawl. Southernisms such a "y'all" and "fixing to go do..." (as well as what I have come to think of as the Southern pronunciation of "insurance" that once had my common room at Wellesley in stitches -- I dropped it soon after) return to my speech. (My relatives have commented how my sons -- especially the eldest -- sound like "surfer dudes." So much for there being no Northern California accent.)

Protective coloration, or the remnants thereof.

Part of it is having been eighteen and fancying myself a deep thinker, and being brought up short when older students at Wellesley told me how "cute" my accent was.*** (See above re: insurance.) And learning that the deeper the accent, the more people made assumptions about you -- or your family -- that were not necessarily correct.  And that people in the Northeast (at least in that pre-Bill Clinton era) sometimes assumed Southerners were naive, stupid, or corrupt, and that most of us wanted to secretly join either the John Birch Society or the KKK.

When you're eighteen, Southern, and going to college in Massachusetts in the early '80s, you lose the accent fast. Or, as a friend of mine did: exploit it. If people are going to think you're naive anyway, they tend to underestimate you and you can get away with saying outrageous things (often of a sexual nature) and people (or at least the people he hung with, who were mostly New Yorkers) think you don't know what you're saying.  (He got a rude shock when he started dating me and I called him on it.)

In my case, it was also part of a larger issue: I felt myself to unworthy of anyone's time and attention.  So I would act as a mirror for what they wanted to see -- mirroring the accent was merely part of it.  I mirrored body language, speech patterns, sometimes thought patterns.  And all the while, I feared that if anyone knew the real me, they would view me with disdain.  I would not be respected.  I would not be loved.

Many, many years (and much therapy) later, I am better about all of this, although not perfect.  I still worry if my friends really knew me, they wouldn't like me, but usually my attitude is much closer to "to hell with them if they don't. Their loss." (There are a few sections of my life/personality where that fear still holds, but in general, not.) After the age of forty, I decided I no longer had the energy the suffer fools gladly, or to keep hiding.  I became myself, or at least more myself.

And guess what? There are still people who love me.  Who find me intriguing.  And funny. Who think I have interesting things to say about the world.  Who like me for who I am, not for what I can show them about themselves.

Still, habits are habits.  Fortunately, the traits of the chameleon I retain are relatively benign.  It is probably not feasible to regain my Southern accent, but I can resist the siren lure of un-Pat-like punctuation.

So, to my friend... from now on out?  No exclamation points in my return texts.  Really.

*Okay, so I underline a lot of words, which is sort of the intra-sentence equivalent of the exclamation point.  As I said, I really have nothing against exclamation points per se.  And certainly not against the way my friend uses them.

**Except after about four beers, or three pina coladas, or three margaritas....

***For those who have seen Almost Famous (a really awesome movie) it is akin to the scene when Penny Lane tells William how sweet he is and he replies "Sweet? Where do you get off calling me sweet! I'm dark and mysterious and pissed off!"


How do I deal with stress?

I write here. There is something very soothing about getting my thoughts down in pixels.  I am working on a discipline of posting every day, even if all I post are about the weather and small reminders to change your clocks.  Writing forces me out of my own head.

I do crossword puzzles.  Crosswords are useful for stretching my brain without actually having to seriously think.

There is also Facebook and Livejournal.  I always wish that I could use this as a jumping up point for more human interaction, which I feel I desperately need, but it's a little hard to invite someone to lunch who lives in Oregon or Baltimore or NYC. There are some local people that I need to check with, though.

For complicated reasons, I am a loner.  Partly that is an introversion which has become more pronounced over the years, partly it is a burgeoning social phobia, and part of it has to do with other circumstances.

I'm the person who, once they snap and take out a whole bunch of people in a mall, their neighbors say "but she was always such a quiet person." Not that I think that's likely to happen: I like people in general too much to do that.*

There is the aforementioned driving.  I guess I am lucky that my addiction tends to be a fairly benign one. I don't drink -- or  more than very occasionally -- partly because it conflicts with my meds but just as much from  sneaking suspicion that if I started to drink heavily I would tend to keep on going. I have enough issues that burden the people around me to add to them.

It's a season of restlessness.  I am aimless right now, not in the sense of not wanting to do something, but in the sense of having not concrete goals and knowledge of how to achieve them.  That horizon just keeps beckoning more and more each day.

Right now, my mind is not racing but dancing lightly from one place to another.  It settles gently and lightly on subjects, before flitting butterfly-like to something else.  The Red-Headed Menace got his ADD from somewhere, and I am a better candidate for responsibility than anything else.  It does make me wonder, though, how I was able to concentrate long enough to finish college, let alone law school.

I'll get by.  I promise to find something more interesting to write about, and let go of the navel gazing.** I think it may be time to resort to the writing prompts on Livejournal and the NaBloPoMo website. Oh wait, this might have been one of those Livejournal prompts of a few days ago.  I know they had a "what keeps you up at night" prompt, which is just as likely to result in needless solipsism as "how do you deal with stress."

Hmmph.  Clearly I am not the only person given to self-reflection ad nauseam.

*As Charles Schulz once said, "I love mankind.  It's people I can't stand."
**Did you know omphaloskepsis is the practice of gazing at one's navel as an aid to meditation? Now you do!

Signal Boosting

A classmate from SLS pointed me towards his daughter who is a musician, Elizabeth Gooen.  I first listened to her work out of politeness, and discovered a very young singer/songwriter whose work I seriously like. (My  favorite song by her is "Preowned.")

I can hardly wait to see what she does in the future.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Andy Rooney died.  He lived to a ripe old age (92) but he will still be missed.  Now it is up to Larry David to carry the weight of being the best-known snarky curmudgeon in the country.
It's gray today.  I guess late fall is turning into winter.

Do not forget to turn your clocks back tonight.

Friday, November 04, 2011

OWS, the playlist.

I've been thinking.  The Occupy Wall Street (and everywhere else, it seems) movement needs a playlist. So, going from only the things on my iTunes:

"Fanfare for the Common Man," Aaron Copeland
"Fight the Power," Public Enemy
"We Shall Be Free," Garth Brooks
"No Surrender," Bruce Springsteen
"This Land is Our Land," Peter, Paul and Mary
"We Shall Overcome," The Sojourners
"Do You Hear the People Sing?," From Les Miserables
"The Chemical Worker's Song," Great Big Sea
"The Times, They Are a Changin'," Bob Dylan
"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," Bing Crosby,
"Children of the Revolution," Bono (from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack)
"33, 45, 78" Kathy Mattea
"Land of Confusion," Genesis

Some of these ("The Chemical Worker's Song," "33, 45, 78") only make sense if you've heard the song. Others ("No Surrender," "Children of the Revolution") I picked mainly for their titles. I know that there has been some great protest music written in the past ten years, I'm just having trouble bringing it to mind right at the moment.  Yes, I know that says far too much about my musical tastes.

What would you put on here?

Edited to add: "Singing for Our Lives," by Holly Near, and "Power to the People," by John Lennon.

My beautiful world.

On Thursday afternoons, I take a class that always begins with a mindfulness exercise.  Yesterday's was intended to help us remember good things on our lives.

We were first asked to think of a time when we felt a "healthy exhaustion." Check.
We were then supposed to think of a time when we felt loved and appreciated. A couple came to mind right away, but I was able to settle on one quickly.  Check.
We then were supposed to think of a caring gesture or kind words that someone we cared about had told us. That took a little bit to narrow it to one, but okay.
We were then asked to remember a beautiful place (just one) and concentrate on the beauty we experience.

I couldn't do that.  There are too many places.

I have stood on the shore of Cumberland Island, Georgia, watching the sun rise.

I have stood on the Salisbury plain on a December morning facing Stonehenge as sleet fell.*

I have watched the sheets of water cascading down Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

I have driven through rural Oregon in October, where the bursts of color were the trees on fire.

I have driven through southern Spain as the late afternoon sunlight splashed off the whitewashed walls of the houses.

I have seen the hills of the Scottish lowlands with mists kissing the tops of the trees.

I have driven through the almost unbelievably green hills of New Zealand in September, and marveled at the boiling streams and pools near Rotarua.

I have been down Big Sur in all sorts of weather: the glorious sunshine filled mornings of an early autumn day and the overcast and misty days of winter** when the fog hugs the trees and the sea turns from blue into a beautiful silver-gray.

I have felt the warm sand of St. Croix under my feet as I sat under the palm trees doing nothing but looking at the brilliant blue water.***

I have been through the Alexander Valley when golden shafts of afternoon sunlight have turned the edges of the feathers on the wild turkeys feeding on the hillside shades of orange and bronze.

I have seen the Belgian countryside when the poppies are in bloom, reminding me of why the poppies were so well known in the first place.

I have stood before the Vietnam Memorial in Washington in the spring when the cherry trees flower, reflecting upon the names and looking at the memorials placed there by family, friends, and comrades-in-arms.

And all of that is outside of museums and great buildings, so many of which I have also seen.

I have been so many places, seen so much beauty, it is too much to remember, to limit. When I think of it, it fills my heart to almost bursting.

I have been very blessed.

*Stonehenge is great when there are no tourists.  Usually that means when the weather is miserable.  If you're up to it, though, that is also when the place is at its most atmospheric.
**Never during rain, though.  I would not ever want to drive it during rain.
*** And drinking rum.  The hotel I was staying was small, a bit down-at-the-heels place on the unfashionable side of the island.  They left a full bottle (750 ml) of 151 Cruzan rum on your pillow when you arrived.  Much better than mints, I thought.  I met the most interesting people there...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

So sorry for the inconvenience.

Looking at things, yesterday I was cranky and mopey.*

Today, I am cranky and melodramatic.**

I am hoping that tomorrow I will be a more fun human being.  Maybe even sunny.***  Or snarky, at least. ****

*The two lost dwarfs.  They left because of "creative differences."
**The dwarfs' younger, prettier cousin, who was written out of the movie to give more screen time to Snow White's evil stepmother.
***The dwarf that opted to skip Hollywood altogether for a short, unmemorable career on Broadway, and who now sells real estate in Philadelphia.
****The dwarf that decided to become a lawyer, and who has had a successful career as a litigator in New York.

The Blogroll is back.

I have reinstated my blog roll, which I got rid of a while ago, mainly because several of the links were to blogs that had gone dormant.  Of special note is the late, lamented Respectful Of Otters.  While Rivka's kids are amazingly cute and alarmingly smart, I sort of wish she still had time to blog.  She is a thoughtful, occasionally snarky observer of the world, and her posts on public health issues were superb. That said, having two children under the age of seven will definitely eat up all your time.

I have segregated the "serious" sites from places such as The Onion and Mental Floss.  I have included God Hates Shrimp because, while most people do not need to visit it more than once, everyone should visit at least once.

Warning: If you have any interest in popular culture or literature, is the biggest time sink I have ever encountered. The author of xkcd agrees with me.

[Edited to add: the rollover text on the xkcd comic reads: " is another inexplicable browser narcotic. They could write a list of  '17 Worst Haircuts in the Ottoman Empire' and I'd read through to the end, and then click on all the links at the end."  Of course, is also on my blogroll.  Enjoy.]

I wish I could dance...

... but not with joy.

Dancing as a way to forget.  Dancing as a way to express yearning.  Dancing as a way to mourn.  Dancing as a way to escape.

I can't dance right now.  Some days I can barely walk without supporting myself, and more often not without pain.

According to some people I know, I first need to figure out what I am trying to forget.  What I yearn for.  What I mourn.  What I seek to escape from. All so I can "deal with them."  The truth shall set you free.*


I know the answers to all those questions.  And all the knowing in the world will not fix a damn one of them.  The solutions to them I am working on, but they are mainly out of my control, within the hands of other people or the world at large.

I should be thankful. I have a roof over my head, my kids will not have to worry about where their next meal comes from.  While I am definitely in the 99%,  I am certainly towards the top. I have enough clothes, and shoes (I would have more, but I hate shoes and shoe shopping).  I have health care and insurance.

I am thankful for all those things.  But somewhere along the line Maslow's hierarchy does come into play. Not to mention watching other people whom you love struggle mightily with their own place in the world. Maybe dancing would help.

As Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

She had her priorities in order.

*Of course, as James Garfield reportedly said, the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

Letter I wish I could send

Dear bicyclist:

When there are no bike lanes, you and I are sharing the lane. That is the operative word: sharing.

When I am significantly ahead of you, have slowed down to make a right-hand turn into a parking lot, and am signalling my intention to do so, greatly speeding up to pass me on my right as I am making my turn is not only foolhardy but wrong. I don't care that you were trying to make the left turn light at the intersection.

I know, I had the audacity to actually be scanning for people slower than you: pedestrians, kids on bicycles, etc. Your responsibility was to slow down and wait for me to finish to finish my turn.

All your fancy gear -- the racing bike, the skin tight cycling outfit, the streamlined helmet design to mark you as a serious cyclist -- will not change the fact that you are an irresponsible idiot.  Had you been a child you would have had an excuse (and I probably would have seen you better), but you looked close to thirty.  I would have thought that all those years of experience in the world would have taught you common sense, but clearly I was wrong.*


That lady you gave the nasty look to as you sped away.

*What galls me about all this is I do make a concerted effort to watch the roads for bicycles of all types, and am careful to give them enough space. The only thing that  makes me crankier than things like this is when they run stop signs and red lights, which they do with some regularity -- especially the "serious" cyclists.  Kids are much better about those.

Good cop.

Why yes, the First Amendment does protect his right to Free Speech.  Imagine that: Cop backs up protester.

Best line by the cop: "If you don't like free speech you should move to another country"

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Okay, that's just strange.

You know how Congress often adds amendments to bills that are totally unrelated to the bills themselves?

While looking up the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (in the aftermath of this post), I discovered that one of the last provisions deals with the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting. There is also a provision regarding time periods for Medicare+ plans.

I'm stunned.  I think it is an exercise for the imagination to see how these things are related.

Playlist for today

I often make playlists for the day.  Today's playlist:

"I Miss The Mountains, " Alice Ripley, from Next to Normal
"Breathe (2 AM)" Anna Nalick
"Bank Job,"  Barenaked Ladies
"The Downeaster 'Alexa," Billy Joel
"Streets Of Philadelphia," Bruce Springsteen
"Sorry-Grateful," Charles Kimbrough, Dean Jones, George Coe, Charles, Braswell from Company
"Truckin'," Grateful Dead
"Safe Upon The Shore," Great Big Sea
"Prince of Darkness," Indigo Girls
"A Pirate Looks at Forty," Jimmy Buffett
"Flesh Failures/Let The Sunshine In," John DeRobertas, Grand Bush from Hair
"Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash
"Sunshine (Go Away Today) [Single Version]," Jonathan Edwards
"Come to My Window," Melissa Etheridge
"There's A Fine, Fine Line," Original Broadway Cast from Avenue Q
"American Tune," Paul Simon
"Brain Damage/Eclipse," Pink Floyd
"Hallelujah," Rufus Wainwright
"Angel," Sarah McLachlan
"Shotgun Down the Avalanche," Shawn Colvin
"On the Willows," Stephen Schwartz from Godspell
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," U2
"Everybody's Talkin'," Harry Nilsson

Clearly, the humor of "Bank Job" notwithstanding, I am not in the most cheerful of moods today. I know I should probably pick something happy-go-lucky, but quite frankly it would just feel false. I did leave off "Seeds" by Kathy Mattea and "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton on the grounds that there are songs that are too depressing even for this playlist.

It does make one think...

The passing of Steve Gingras has made me once again realize how fleeting life is, and how important it is to tell people "thank you" and "I love you" before they are gone forever. People can die without a moment's notice from heart attack or stroke or car accidents.

There are a series of emails I need to send.  I just sent the first one, to Railfan's Speech and Language teacher from elementary school.  She made an immeasurable difference in his life.  The fact that he is doing as well as he is in the world is due in no small part to her care.

Now on to others.

Goodbye, and thank you.

A friend on Facebook was posting about the bittersweet feeling of having her last IEP (Individual Education Plan) for her daughter.  I mentioned that we had had the best Special Ed Director in the world when the kids were in elementary and middle school.

I knew Steve had retired in September. The Facebook conversation reminded me that I hadn't talked to him in a while.  I thought I would drop him a note thanking him for everything he did for my kids.

He died on October 24. He was only 60.

Steve Gingras was one of the good ones.  He fought for the special needs kids in the district, even as tightening budgets made getting services harder and harder. He attended every IEP for every kid who was in a special day class in person, rather than sending a representative. He fought to get resource services for the Not-So-Little Drummer boy when he was in elementary school, because he was performing so much under  his potential, and had significant trouble with fine motor skills.  Many another SED would have ignored the issue, since by a lot of objective measures the NSLDB was not doing badly in school.

On one occasion, I commented to the Speech & Language teacher that I was worried that one of the kids I observed on the playground had an autism spectrum disorder.  She replied that the parents were fighting testing.  The next year, the kid -- who did indeed have ASD -- was in a special ed class.  She and Steve had convinced the parents to get the boy assessed and helped. A lot of others would not have bothered, since the parents were not pushing for an evaluation.

So many of my friends have talked about having to fight school districts to get services for their children who needed it.  While we occasionally had gripes about the services we got, we did not have fight to get help for our kids.  We never doubted that Steve put the kids in his district first.

He was also a good role model for the kids: in addition to being caring, he was also definitely his own person.*  He wore a beard and a ponytail, and occasionally a Grateful Dead shirt to work.  Okay, so it was a tasteful lavender polo, but it had the Dead insignia on the pocket. Once, a parent came into the office at the elementary school, breathless with worry because a "strange man" was walking about campus. "Does he have a gray ponytail?" asked the secretary. "Yes," replied the parent. "Oh, that's only Steve.  He belongs here."

As indeed he did.

Farewell, Steve.  I am so sorry I didn't tell  you  in person what a marvelous guy you were, and how much you helped all three of my kids, especially Railfan.

The world is a lesser place now that you're gone.

*Okay, so he smoked like a chimney, and had to fight off a bout of esophageal cancer as a result.  Nobody's perfect.

Poor babies.

Tonight, since it was Tuesday, I went to the Loft in San Jose for trivia, as I do every Tuesday.

Last week, The Resident Shrink, The Rocket Scientist and I had managed to not merely beat but pulverize The Gringos, who have been the dominating force in Loft bar trivia all year.  We felt pretty good about it.

Tonight, i managed to beat the Gringos (at full strength -- four members) single-handedly. We were tied coming into the last round, where I picked up 11 points to their 8.

Afterwards, I heard them grumbling among themselves that this was the first time that they had lost two games in a row.  They were cranky about having to shell out for all of their dinner, rather than part of it.*

Oh, poor babies.  I feel so sorry for them.

Hopefully, next week I can make it three weeks in a row.**

*This is  not to say the were bad sports.  On the contrary, they were very gracious to me and congratulated me for a game well played.  They were just grumbling among themselves.

**See how hard this blogging every day thing is? I played on Tuesday night, November 1, but since I was caught up in other things I ended up posting it a few minutes after midnight, meaning that it was posted on November 2.  Rats.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Beginning

Today is the first day of both NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).  While the first may seem difficult -- 50K can be a lot of words to crank out in 30 days -- the latter may end up being no walk in the park either.

Posting every day may not be as easy as it sounds.  Although  my average for last month -- the most prolific month I have ever had writing this blog -- was nearly two posts a day, there were many days where I posted four items and others where I posted none.  Unlike NaNoWriMo, you are not allowed to take a day off and make the work up the next day.

So we will see.  I expect to be doing a lot of blogging, although how much other writing I will get done will be determined by factors currently not under my control.

Consider this the start of an interesting month.  Hopefully.

Edited to add: What if I tried to blog 50K in November?  Yes, it might get boring for you...